TAN Wei Ming has an artistic eye.

She creates contemporary furniture designs while keeping with simplicity in mind, with a touch of Malaysian craft and culture.

“It starts with a simple line. All my designs have clean lines,“ explained the graphic designer.

The sleek aesthetic belies the sophistication.

“It’s an art form translated into a design,’’ added the founder of Aureole Design studio.

Tan pushes the boundaries and cleverly incorporates Asian techniques such as the interlocking wooden bracket system, an important element in traditional Chinese architecture, into a simplified approach for the Dougong design series.

She also incorporates the Malaysian heritage craft of weaving for furnishings, such as the Ketupat Pouf.

One would have never thought the rice delicacy, usually served during Hari Raya, could inspire a line of modern pouf series.

Tan turned her love for food into a fascinating piece, perfect for any home.

“I wanted to incorporate local or Asian flavour in the design context,” said Tan, who majored in typography design in London.

The series takes inspiration from hand woven palm leaves.

The collection of low-seating pieces is an Asian “floor culture” style and can be adapted into bespoke dimensions based on requirements.

“The Ketupat series is a collaboration with Tanoti, a Sarawak-based social enterprise team,” said Tan, who also designs lighting in simple forms, sometimes paired with uncommon materials.

The joint project also explored adapting traditional crafts into new variations of home products.

“Rattan craft development is one of Tanoti’s community initiatives to
create sustainable income-generating opportunities for remote forest communities in Sarawak,’’ said Tan.

What inspired you to become a furniture designer?

I am a graphic designer by major. So, I am inclined towards the arts naturally, and design is always evolving, with never a dull moment!

How did your career in furniture design begin?

After practising as a graphic designer for a couple of years, I had the opportunity to venture into a completely different field with a local design firm.

They were gathering a team of multi-disciplinary designers, to design and produce customised home accessories and interior pieces.

This experience gave me the platform I needed to extend my skills further and later paved the way to form my own independent brand, Aureole Design, in 2013.

What did you learn while making the Ketupat series?

One of the most educational experiences I had was the opportunity to visit the indigenous Penan tribe in the interior of Borneo.

The journey was absolutely inspiring, seeing the village way of life and understanding the techniques of craft weaving among the Penans.

What inspires you in designing a piece of furniture?

Nature is my best inspiration. It is both simple, yet complex.

From trees, plants to seashells, they have a well-calculated designed structure to form shape, their DNA pattern.

They are aesthetically pleasing in form and balance. Naturally, we tend to be drawn to the warmest of nature.

In adapting to design, it would be drawing from these aesthetics, harmony and proportions or simply as a choice of material as well.

Do you come up with a design idea first and then choose the material or do you get inspired by the materials?

I work both ways. Although most often, the design process comes before the material. But, materials do inspire designs just as much.

What does your creations portray?

I would like the pieces I design to express my personality. Incorporating design discipline from my graphic background, adapting the richness of Asian culture and translating them within the context of simplicity.

How do you choose the materials to work with?

Sustainability would affect the choice of my material selection.

What is the specialty of the Dougong series?

Dougong literally means “cap” and “block” in Chinese. It is a unique structural element of interlocking wooden brackets, one of the most important elements in traditional Chinese architecture.

Aureole’s Dougong series takes inspiration from this structural network, adapting and pairing it to create a simple signature base, which is reminiscent of ancient imperial palaces and temples.

Aureole’s first collection encompasses lighting pieces, a bench, a side table and standing mirrors.

How should a buyer select a good piece of furniture?

Understanding and having the awareness of the originality, process and material will help us to appreciate and value the piece.

What are you working on now?

Currently, I am exploring Art Deco architecture forms for my next collection.

What are your future plans?

To participate in cross-cultural exchange, collaborating with different craftsmen from other regions and countries.